Written by Jamie Mathieson, Flatline was unlike any other episode this series. It has a lot of factors that should make it one of my favorite episodes, but, it just isn’t. Clara and The Doctor are separated for the majority of the episode and Clara essentially takes the place of The Doctor as he is trapped inside the TARDIS. The villains are scary as usual, but, they lack a certain something, in fact, the whole episode lacks a certain something and I can’t quite put my finger on it; although, the writing doesn’t have that pop that we’ve seen previously. We start out, rather vaguely, with a man speaking to the police on the phone. He claims he knows who did it and that they are everywhere. Suddenly, he disappears, the camera pans over and we see the he is now in the wall, literally, he is a part of the wallpaper now. We first see our heroes when The Doctor is dropping Clara off at the same time and place-ish. When Clara goes outside to see where they are she sees that the door to the TARDIS has shrunk, in fact, the entire TARDIS exterior has shrunk so that the door is only about 3 feet tall. Clara goes out to investigate a little more while The Doctor stays at home to try to figure it out when somethings happens and suddenly the door is smaller, maybe a foot tall.
Clara comes across a memorial and an accompanying mural to people who have gone missing recently when she runs into Rigsy (Joivan Wade) who is a graffiti artist that subsequently happens to be on a community service team where he is forced to paint over his own work. He tells her all about the missing people and she immediately heads back to tell The Doctor only to find the tiny-TARDIS. The Doctor explains that someone is messing with the external dimensions which is causing only the outside of the TARDIS to shrink. However, The Doctor is now stuck inside and Clara cannot get inside. This is a very clever idea to separate The Doctor and his companion and we’ve seen it a few times before. I was excited to hear about this because I loved the idea of Clara becoming the main focus and having to do things The Doctor normally does. While she does this very well, she did it better in previous episodes in which it was far less implied. Well, The Doctor has figured out the source of whatever is shrinking the TARDIS and gives Clara the psychic paper and sonic screwdriver as well as an earpiece that allows The Doctor to see what Clara sees. Clara then returns to the memorial where she runs into Rigsy again where she introduces herself to him as Doctor Oswald. This leads to her making a few jabs about how The Doctor can be cocky which is funny. Rigsy takes Clara into the apartment of the man from the opening. Clara starts looking around the room, proposing that maybe he just became very small, like the TARDIS. This all makes Rigsy uncomfortable and he starts to leave until Clara introduces him to The Doctor inside the tiny-TARDIS when the energy is drained from the TARDIS again and they all run out of the apartment.
Out of nowhere, they are in another apartment with a police officer. Clara has told her that they are with MI5, which if you don’t know, is the UK’s version of the CIA. The police officer gets a call and goes into another room where she suddenly sees the wall start dripping in a very weird way and it starts moving towards her until it reaches her and sucks her into the ground leaving only her flashlight behind. Clara and Rigsy, who have been knocking out the wall in the other room, hear her scream and run in. The Doctor, seeing through Clara, notices a mural on the wall of a human nervous system, he deduces that it’s what’s left of the police officer and that it must be a species from a two dimensional universe trying to figure out our three dimensions. Another example of a concept that I really like that is just not executed very well. Visually, it is very scary and unlike anything I’ve seen before, but the dialogue just doesn’t allow me to buy it completely. They go to leave but the door knob has been flattened. They manage to escape by getting into a chair that hangs from the ceiling and they use it to break through the window and escape. During all this, Danny calls and Clara lies about what is happening, although, Danny knows something is up, but, The Doctor heard everything and realized that Clara lied to him as well. This is an interesting change as for the first half of the series it was Clara who was always mad at The Doctor for lying. Rigsy returns to work and finds them starting to paint over the memorial mural, he adamantly defends it until Clara shows up and The Doctor realizes that it’s not a mural but it’s actually the missing people. Clara tries to use the psychic paper on the the boss, Fenton (Christopher Fairbank), but it doesn’t work, which is a shock to both Clara and The Doctor. As they argue, the images of the people start turning around, they pull one of the workers into the mural and his image becomes like the others. They all make their way underground which Rigsy knows well. The Doctor urges Clara to become the leader which she does quite handily.
The Doctor wants the 2D to be good and gives them the benefit of the doubt for now. He tries to make contact with them and is kind of successful. He is able to speak to them and gets the response, “55”, which turns out to be the number on the dead worker’s jacket. It then says “22” the number on a living worker’s jacket. They all look over to him and he is unresponsive when he starts to melt and they’re all forced to run away again. They keep finding doors whose handles have been flattened and are therefore unusable when suddenly another one of the workers is snatched up by a giant hand and are beginning to be able to manifest themselves in 3 dimensions. They are able to escape with a device that The Doctor has made that can make things 3D again. During their escape, I guess Fenton has had enough and goes to grab the TARDIS out of Clara’s purse and he drops it down a hole where it lands smack on a train track with a train on its way. Clara suggests The Doctor move the TARDIS with his hand, Addams Family style and it works! Until the TARDIS tips backwards back onto the tracks and he is forced to put it in the TARDIS version of safe mode in which there is no way in or out and has lost contact with Clara. The rest of them head down to the tracks where they see that the 2Ds have blocked the exit. Another train is on the way and Clara manages to stop it and asks the conductor whether it would be possible to ram the blockage. In the mean time, Rigsy has already stepped into the train and is starting it down the tracks. Clara jumps on board and shows him that he doesn’t have to kill himself, she just uses her headband to automatically drive the train, the two of them jump off and the train hits the blockage only to be turned 2D.
Clara finds the TARDIS in its siege mode, which looks a bit like the Pandorica, and takes it with her. They all end up in a room together and need to come up with a plan when Clara has a bolt of inspiration. She pulls a poster down and asks Rigsy to paint a picture of a door on it. The now three dimensional 2D monsters are bearing down on them and come to the door that Rigsy painted. They can’t tell the difference and try to start to open it by sending energy through it. What they don’t know, is that they’re actually charging the TARDIS up until it is able to grow back into its full shape. It’s at this point that The Doctor finally makes his first real appearance where he is quickly able to repel the 3D 2D people which he names The Boneless. He then drops everyone off, again in just some random location where you’d expect a mafia hit to go down.
This is another one of those middle of the road episodes for me. I really liked a lot of the concepts like Clara being the main force for good in this one and having an enemy that is able to suck you out of the 3rd dimension, but, it just didn’t live up to my expectations. This episode gets a C+ for originality, humor, and concept, but suffers from a lack of decent execution. With only 3 episodes left, I really hope things truly get back to how they were at the start. If this truly is Clara’s last few episodes, they better count.
All pictures belong to the BBC and are credited to Adrian Rogers.